Redskins Fans Honor Slain Player

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The Washington Redskins took the field Sunday for the first time since the Miami murder of team safety Sean Taylor. Many of the fans at FedEx field wore jerseys sporting Taylor's number 21 in tribute.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

One story that preoccupied football fans this week was the shooting death in Miami of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. A fourth suspect in the crime appeared in court today and was charged with unpremeditated murder - among other counts. And for the first time since Taylor's death, the Redskins took the field against the visiting Buffalo Bills. In tribute to Taylor, many fans wore jersey sporting his number - 21.

NPR's Allison Keyes was there.

Unidentified Man #1: Fans, are you ready to play football?

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

ALLISON KEYES: From the end zone, the stands at FedEx Field looked like a sea of burgundy and gold. Thousands of fans twirled miniature white towels decorated with Taylor's number.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

KEYES: And the cheers for the team's loss star made the air rumble. Season ticketholder Charles Sembling(ph) sits in the front row for every home game.

Mr. CHARLES SEMBLING (Football Fan, Washington Redskins): Yeah. Yeah. There's a sense of tragedy. You thought football first. But secondly, you think about the fact that a young daughter, you know, has lost her father and is going to be raised without having to know him at all.

Unidentified Man #1: Please join us in a moment of silence as we honor his memory.

Unidentified Man #2: We love you, Sean.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

KEYES: Tears rolled up in Gloria Amed's(ph) eyes. She's also known as Princess Redskin and hid her tears with big dark glasses, along with her feathered Indian chief headdress and her burgundy velvet gown with beaded gold-and-white fringe.

Ms. GLORIA AMED (Fan, Washington Redskins): I feet like I lost someone close to my family. But, you know, I guess, you know, we have to accept it and move on. Life goes on.

Mr. JOSEPH VALD(ph) (Fan, Washington Redskins): He's just been my favorite player ever since he's come to the NFL. I've kept track of him. I got all his football cards.

KEYES: Joseph Vald says what's saddest is that Taylor was taken after rebounding from some past troubles with the law.

Mr. VALD: He's changed his life since he's come into the NFL - how he's - as soon as he's had his baby, how he's turned his life around, how he's become a different person.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Unidentified Man #3: Back at FedEx Field, Buffalo Bills winding up. Washington has only 10 players on defense.

KEYES: As the Redskins' defense lined up for the first time, instead of 11 men, only 10 took the fields.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

KEYES: Since Taylor died, a stream of fans has gathered outside the park, leaving Teddy bears, handwritten signs reading rest in peace, Sean, and football-shaped balloons bearing the Redskins logo.

Cindy Gault(ph) wore Taylor's number today after spending the week praying and crying.

Ms. CINDY GAULT (Fan, Washington Redskins): The Redskins - I've been a Redskins fan since birth. And it just feels like a piece of me died the day he died.

KEYES: Gault loved watching Taylor play. The gusto at which he'd hit an opponent then bounced up like it didn't hurt him at all. She says it was important to her to be at the game today.

Do you think he's up there watching?

Ms. GAULT: I know he is. And they better win for him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: That, Taylor's family has said, would be the best possible tribute. But the Redskins lost by a single point.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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